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My Dad, the Granddad

My Dad loved being a Granddad.

Mom and Dad with their grandkids, Christmas 2015

When TJ and I were living in Texas and learned we were going to be parents, we didn’t even think twice about our decision to move back home to Illinois so that our baby could be raised close to it’s grandparents.  TJ and I both grew up around our grandparents, we knew how special that bond is you develop with them, and we wanted that same thing for our babies.

I can remember it wasn’t long after we moved back to central Illinois that we began really struggling.  We started questioning and doubting why exactly we moved back home.  We had it made in Texas!  We had a cute house, great jobs, amazing friends, a loving church…. and we left it all behind for the sake of family.

Upon moving back we were living upstairs at Mom and Dad’s house, and for us two first born, very independent people, that wasn’t ideal.  They always say there’s no place like home, but I believe there is also a saying…you can’t go home again.  Such mixed messages!   But, that’s where the love of parents kick in.

Do you think TJ’s family loved having our whole life packed up in boxes stored away in their garage for a year?  Doubtful.  You think my parents loved having us and our dog living in their upstairs?  Well… they probably did, actually, just as I’m sure TJ’s parents would have loved us living in their home.  They were all just thankful we were home.

TJ was hating his new job.  I had no job.  And so we began to ask ourselves, “What have we done?! What were we thinking?!”

Our house in Texas still hadn’t sold and TJ was ready to go back.  He could probably get his old job back and we could go back to our comfortable life in the Lone Star State… and raise our baby hundreds of miles away from our families.

But I said no.

I knew there was a reason why we moved back to Illinois, a reason God opened that door.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was at the time, but I knew there was a reason.  God lead us back here and we were going to stick it out and see what He had in store for us.

I wish I could then say that miraculously after that revelation, everything got better!  The dark clouds vanished, the sun came out, and all was well in our world!

But…not quite.

Things weren’t getting better.  TJ ended up quitting his job that we moved back home for him to do, I had begun a teaching job, making about half of what I had been making in Texas, we’re still living at Mom and Dad’s,  and all with a brand new beautiful baby boy…and things just stunk.  I was finally on board the let’s-move-back-to-Texas bandwagon.

So, I went to my Dad’s office to visit one day while on maternity leave.  I sat down in front of him and told him we’ve decided to move back to Texas.  Things aren’t working out here, we aren’t happy, we made the wrong decision coming back home.  I could tell he was hurt and disappointed and definitely not a fan of the idea.

I left his office, went back to the house, and before I had a chance to talk to my Mom, my Dad must have already called her and told her everything, because when she got home from school, she had sadness and disbelief written all over her face.  I hated hurting them.  I hated ripping their newborn grandson out of their arms and robbing them of the opportunity to love on him and watch him grow up.  I can remember my Mom telling me that my Dad told her he hated that he wasn’t going to get to watch Brock grow up and play ball.  Talk about a stab to the heart.  What were we doing?!?!?!  How did we get here?!?!

God, what am I missing?????

And then the next thing you know, my Dad is making arrangements to buy the farmhouse where he spent his entire childhood, from my Granny, with the intentions of TJ, me, and Brock living there.  He bought us a farmhouse!  He overpaid (like way overpaid!) for a rundown, flea infested, piece of crap, falling apart farmhouse to turn it into the house of our dreams, all because he loved me.  He loved that farmhouse.  And sure it was a great house five decades and several different renters ago, but it had seen better days, and the money that was involved and him paying way more than that farmhouse was even worth, shows you his generosity, how big his heart was,  and the lengths he would go to for his family, to make me happy, to keep us in Illinois, and so that he would not miss out on the opportunity to be a Granddad.

The love of a father.

Dad and Reid playing ball

And yet… it now feels like it was all for nothing.

Instead of me robbing him of the opportunity to be a Granddad… Alzheimer’s did.

I’m so incredibly thankful that my Dad did get a few good years in with Brock and Jillian.  He loved my babies.  He loved going to Brock’s ballgames, their music programs, taking them trick or treating,  and let’s just say Jillian was wrapped around his finger probably tighter than I was.  But again, they didn’t get enough time with him, they too were robbed.

Dad with Jillian at Dustin and Stacy’s wedding

So, what was the reason God brought us back home to Illinois?

To watch us struggle? To rip my Dad away from me?

It was to be a family.

It was so I could love on my Dad for the last decade of his life.

To help and support my Mom.

To let him be a Granddad.

Dad with each of his grand babies
Dad with Brock
Dad and Jillian
Dad with Dustin’s son, Reid

 

Dad with Dustin’s daughter, Aubrey
Dad with Ashley’s daughter, Adelynn

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

With tear stained cheeks, I thank you God for blessing me with a father who loved me so much that he’d invest his retirement savings into fixing up a home for me and my family, so that we could all be together.  And yet while my Dad’s time on this Earth was but a blink of an eye, and I may not have ended up getting my dream home, what you did give me was a Dad who showed me that it’s not the fancy house here on Earth that I long for, but the mansion in heaven, where one day, we will all be together again.

Lord come quickly.

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A Letter to my Siblings

Me with my Dad and siblings

 

Dearest Dustin & Ashley,

I love you.

But most importantly, Dad loved you.

Thank you for sharing your memories of Dad with the world and for helping me share his story.

I know you may not fully understand why I started this blog, but I want you to know that I’m doing it for us.  I’m doing it for you, for Reid and Aubrey, for Adelynn, Brock and Jillian.  I want them to know their Granddad.  I’m doing it for any other families out there that might be treading the rough waters of Alzheimer’s.  I’m doing it for Mom.  I’m doing it for me.

I miss him.  Every single day I miss him.

My heart hurts and it feels like it’s been broken into a million tiny pieces and I can’t “jimmy-rig” it back together.

I’m sad.  I’m mad. I’m bitter.  I’m angry.

And I know you may be feeling those same things, too.

So, how do I continue to find joy in all things?

I remember…

Growing up with Dad as our father, I know days weren’t always rainbows and unicorns and happy face emojis.  I’m not sure there’s any family out there that can say that, but boy, we sure did have a lot of rainbow days.

From playing 500 in the backyard, assembling that stinkin’ pool every summer, helping him plant a garden, the big blazing weenie roasts, Wilbur, and the countless road trips, to burying him in the sand at the beach, playing barbershop, the bike rides, and baptizing each of us.  I could go on and on.

He loved us.

I know you both think I was the fair-haired girl, that I could do no wrong in his eyes… and maybe there is some truth to that, but I had numerous private conversations with him about the both of you.

He always only wanted the best for you both.

He loved you, Dustin.

He loved you, Ashley.

So much.

I was never his “good ol’ girl” or the one he spent hours with painting lines on the driveway or organizing baseball cards with, but rather he did things with each of us to make us feel special and loved.

He wanted us to run the race, to make it to the finish line, be more than conquerors.

He wants us to all be in heaven together.

There’s no one I’d rather be shoved into the back of an ugly Crown Vic with on our way to meet Jesus in the sky than you two.

So, I’m doing this blog.

I’m sharing not only Dad’s story, but our story.

I’m hopeful that time will heal, that everyday my grief will be less than it was the day before, and you both sharing your memories has gotten me one day closer to my heart being pieced back together.

Thank you again for helping me and I hope you can find some comfort in it, as am I.

I love you both more than I could ever begin to express.

My cup runneth over.

Love,

Your favorite Big Sister

 

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A Father & His Baby Girl – A post from my sister

 

Baby Ashley and Dad

 

The number of stories you could tell about Dad are truly countless, so I’ll try to just hit the most memorable ones in my mind.

When I was in kindergarten, Dad was in between jobs as it was ruled that polygraphing people for employment was no longer permitted.  He would pick me up from school, then we would go home, and we’d have to watch Perry Mason for what felt like hours.  I remember thinking how boring it was, but it was our daily tradition and holds precious memories now.  During that time, he would also let me play hairdresser, so I would comb his hair as he lay in the recliner.  One day, I got ambitious and wanted to up my hairdressing skills, so I decided cutting his stark black hair would also be a good idea.  Man oh man, did I get in big trouble!  Thankfully, he was gracious about it, and all was forgiven.

Ashley and Dad

We often enjoyed family vacations in the summer, and we always drove no matter where we were going.  Dad refused to let anyone else drive even when he was exhausted.  You knew he was tired because he’d start rubbing the back of his head over and over.  That was our surefire way to know it was time to pull over, but there was no way he was going to admit that he was sleepy.  Sometimes on our long trips, Dad would get pulled over.  I can remember a specific time as we traveled out east and he passed someone on the shoulder of the road although I can’t remember why.  It was always Dad’s thing to get out of the car when a policeman pulled him over.  As he got out of the car and the policeman told him what he’d done wrong, he said, “Oh we’re allowed to do that in Illinois.  Sir, I haven’t had a ticket since October 21, 1976.”  (I may have gotten the exact date wrong, but it was definitely in October and definitely in the 70s.  This was Dad’s FAVORITE line to pull with cops, and we heard that story OFTEN!)  Oh, Dad’s driving.  I could talk about it for days.  Whenever we’d get out of the car after reaching our destination, he’d lock it and then he would have to check every door to make sure it was locked.  After his Alzheimer’s diagnosis but before his license was revoked, he’d drive Mom’s Cadillac which digitally showed the speed you were going.  He’d have to have it EXACTLY on the speed limit.  As frustrating as that was, I’m glad he got to enjoy driving for as long as he did.

Mom, Ashley, and Dad

Living with Mom and Dad and then conveniently buying a house only a half a block away, I have so many precious memories, because we spent a ton of time together.  I’ll always fondly remember playing Euchre with my grandpa, grandma, mom, and dad in Collison for hours on end.  No matter how many games Dad lost, we’d have to play until he won…even if that meant we were playing until 1 o’clock in the morning.  His famous saying was, “You’re only as good as your last game.  This is for the championship of Collison.”  What sweet memories were held around that table.  Even after his diagnosis, he loved sitting around the table playing cards, and he could actually play and enjoy for much longer than we thought he’d be able.

Ashley and Dad

More recently, my husband, Dan, and I along with Dad and Mom would enjoy double dates to Stagecoach, a local restaurant in Gifford, and then to Lenny’s, an ice cream shop in Gifford.  We spent hours playing pinball at Lenny’s.  I can laugh just thinking about Dad hitting those buttons with such force that I’m positive he’s part of the reason the game was broken sometimes (Sorry, Ms. Mary!).  I am so thankful we took the time to go up there as often as we did and enjoy that time together.  I’ll never look at a pinball machine without thinking about Dad and his forceful fingers.

Pinball Dates at Lenny’s

 

Ashley and Dad

The absolute best memory I have of Dad after his diagnosis was him being able to read the scripture reading at my wedding on May 30, 2015.  I won’t lie when I say I was pretty nervous as I heard his voice waiver when he got up, but it wasn’t because he couldn’t do it.  It was because he was so moved by scripture, and that’s how he was my entire life.  He beautifully read Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Ashley and Dan’s Wedding Day

I am eternally grateful that God allowed me to meet my husband, get married, and have a precious baby girl all before Dad got extremely bad with his Alzheimer’s.  He was able to say “yes” to the man asking for my hand in marriage; he was able to say “I do” when asked who gives this woman to this man; he was able to hold Adelynn and sing her a sweet song; he was able to be Granddad to another little soul.

Dad would often hug me from behind and strongly rub my sternum as he’d say, “You’re a good ol’ girl.”  Well, Dad, I’ll continue being “a good ol’ girl,” so I can join you in your mansion.

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A Father & His Son – A post from my brother

Dad and Dustin

 

Life lessons from C. Geren Roberts:

 

Dr. Litman Dentist Baseball Team

BE PREPARED

My favorite memories of Dad are from Little League baseball.  Before every game, we would head to the batting cage and I remember hitting balls until I was exhausted. Most of the time he would end up drilling me about 10 times in the back and that’s how I would get ready for each baseball game growing up, ha!  My Dad made it to almost every single game I ever played in, although there was one that he missed. One game when I was playing for Dr. Litman’s Dentistry, Dad was in the hospital with a staff infection in his elbow, and I wanted to play well to make him proud.  I ended up pitching a no-hitter because I wanted to make Dad happy.  Sadly for me, that was my first and only no-hitter ever pitched!   Oh well…

Dad always had my best interests at heart even though it sometimes came across the wrong way.  I’ll never forget how much he was involved, how he always had my back, and how much he wanted me to be successful.

GO BIG OR GO HOME

One time when Dad came to visit me at Harding University, our family was headed to Trail Dust, an all-you-can-eat buffet.  While in the parking lot, he had just finished eating an apple. Once he found out it was an all-you-can-eat buffet, his first reaction was “Ooh man you didn’t tell me this was an all-you-can-eat buffet, I just ate an apple!”  Needless to say, that apple didn’t stop him from eating about six plates of monkey bread.  He was so mad that he had just eaten an apple, although it was hysterical to the rest of us.

Dustin & Dad

DO IT RIGHT

Dad was OCD to the extreme.  When I was probably in the fifth grade, Dad decided it would be a good idea to paint a free throw and three-point line on the driveway. So instead of just measuring 15 feet and painting a quick free throw line, Dad went up to Gifford Grade School and measured the lines on the basketball court to probably the nearest 16th of an inch.  We then taped up our driveway and spent all day painting our first set of lines. Although it took forever, it truly was amazing.  Every other year or so, Dad and I would be out there all afternoon taping the driveway and repainting to make sure that we didn’t lose those painted lines.  One of the biggest things I learned from this memory is that if you’re going to do it, then you should do it right.  Don’t ever do anything halfway, do it all to the best of your ability.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME

I promise you have never met a man watch TV with his eyes closed as much as my Dad did.  Just when you thought he was asleep, you would go to take the remote out of his hand, and what do you know, he opens his eyes and squeezes the remote, “Hey, I was watchin that!”  And then you have to wait it out a little longer, just hoping that he finally relinquishes the remote.

Dustin & Dad with the Crown Vic

LOOKING FORWARD

Another of my favorite memories of Dad is organizing our baseball card collection.  We started collecting full sets of Topps baseball cards in 1988.  Every year, we would go to Gordyville and buy a complete unopened box set of baseball cards.  Once we got home, we would spend ALL afternoon organizing the cards.  We alphabetized every set by team name, then by the last name of the player.  Yes, it took forever.  Did I already mention that Dad was obsessive compulsive?  Gradually we started buying previous years so my set now includes every Topps baseball card from 1982-2000.  Although it took forever, it was a memory I’ll never forget.  Every year I looked forward to the day we would go buy the new set, it was awesome.

Dad teaching Dustin how to ride a bike.

 

Dustin’s first day of Kindergarten

LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY

From going to church 3 times a week, to playing catch in the backyard, from learning so much from him in Sunday School, to riding bikes on the way to school and around town, to being embarrassed that he was filming everything, to a knock down drag out game of 1 on 1 on the best basketball court in the world, to breaking the garage door windows with basketballs numerous times and him never being upset, to fishing in Canada, to catching crawfish in the creek, to always catching the biggest fish regardless of where we were fishing, to vacationing all the way from Colorado to New York City, to helping coach our Rantoul Falcon peewee football team since I was in the 3rd grade, to giving me the keys to his 1970 Chevelle, to loving our family and those around him with all that he had, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about my Dad.  I miss my Dad every day and can’t wait to see him again.

Dustin, Dad, and Ashley on a family vacation

 

Dustin and Dad with the infamous Chevelle

 

Dustin and Dad with their catch of the day

 

Dad helping Dustin get ready for Falcon Football

Dad taught us all very important lessons along the way and I’ll forever be indebted to the faith he passed down to me.  God is and always will be first.  Yes, we need to be prepared, and I’m not talking about being prepared for a baseball game.  Yes, we should go big, for if you’re going to do something, then you should do it right.  All.the.time.  Yes, the best is yet to come, and I’m not talking about what’s coming up next on the television.  Yes, like a kid looks forward to buying a set of baseball cards and spending some quality time with his father, we should be looking forward to the day we get to be with our Heavenly Father.   Faith, hope, and love will continue on forever, but the greatest of all is love.

I love you, Dad.

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My Dad, the Career Man

“This is Geren.”

Dad, ready for work

 

No matter which phone line you called, work, cell, or home, that was the answer you got when calling my Dad.

It’s time now to get to know my Dad as the hard-working, dedicated career man.

I’ve struggled with this post…like really struggled, as I partly blame the stress of his career for bringing on the early onset of his disease.  But not just the stress of the job, the stress caused by people at the job.  So, how do I approach telling you about this side of my Dad and do so with grace… the same grace he showed them when I’m still so hurt and bitter?

Well… here goes.

My Dad, the Graduate

 

My Dad graduated from Armstrong High School in 1972 and went on to receive his degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois in 1976 and his Master’s degree in the Detection of Deception from Reid College in Chicago, that same year.  I remember when my Dad’s obituary came out a friend reached out to me and commented on how difficult it must have been as a child to get away with lying!  Ha!  I honestly never thought about it, but I’m sure now looking back, he always knew.  (Not that we ever lied as kids, we were perfect children!)

For eleven years, my Dad worked with Everette Gibbs as a polygraph examiner and later had his own business doing polygraph examinations.

Dad filling out polygraph reports

 

He traveled all over giving polygraph exams.  He’d come home with so many papers and reports needing to be filled out.  One Christmas we drove down to Florida to my Aunt’s house and he packed up boxes of paperwork in the car to work on reports while on vacation.  I’m sure that wasn’t stressful, right?  But then, President Reagan decided to do away with the polygraph, so there went a career my Dad invested over a decade of his life to, gone.  I remember writing a letter to old Ronald, begging him to not do away with my Dad’s line of work.  I guess he never got my letter.

So, now what does my Dad do?

Well, I’ll tell you what my Dad did… NOTHING.

I was young when this all went down, but looking back, how could he not have been a bit depressed?  He had been his own boss, doing a job he loved, and now he’s a stay at home Dad, sitting on the couch all day, watching Perry Mason with my baby sister, unable to provide for his family. The only thing missing were the bonbons.  Times were rough.  My Mom was a teacher, and we all know teachers make BANK, which must have been why we were on free and reduced lunch.  Right?

Through good times and bad…

For richer or poorer.

My Dad finally got inspired again and shifted occupations to becoming a financial advisor.

My Dad on a billboard for his first financial advisor job

 

Blunt, Ellis, and Loewi co-workers

 

My Dad’s cousin, Tom Brown, was a financial advisor, and I know my Dad loved him and always looked up to and admired him, so it was a good fit for my Dad to go to work with Tom and be taken under his wing.  From there, he was then able to work for a few different companies, including Palmer National Bank, Old National Bank, and AG Edwards, which became Wachovia, and then Wells Fargo Advisors in Danville.

My Dad worked all.the.time.

He worked hard. Went in early, stayed late.  Our house was FULL of boxes of paperwork.  This wasn’t a 9-5 job, this was a job that loomed over him all the time and sucked everything out of him.  It consumed him.

Now when you are dealing with people’s life savings, it’s important to build relationships.  He was their friend, not out to nickel and dime them or just “churn” their investments to make the most profit for himself.  He genuinely cared for his clients.  He wanted to do what was best for them, not him.  And being the people person that he was, he had amazing clientele.  But, the stock market and dealing with people’s finances is stressful!  What shouldn’t be stressful though, is your work environment, and unfortunately, when you’re being taken advantage of, like hundreds of thousands of dollars advantage of, and you can no longer trust co-workers, you’re bound to have some stress.

So, grace. That’s all I’ll say about that…

Moving on… in the summer of 2010, my Mom, who was now retired from teaching, started helping my Dad occasionally at work and then in the fall of 2011 she began helping him full time.  They were a great team!  She was limited to only being able to come in and assist him three times a week, even though HE was the one paying her salary…which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but what do I know as  I’m not the boss.  It wasn’t immediate, but Mom did start to notice a few things being off.  For example, they had a brand new computer system, and my Dad wasn’t exactly the most tech savvy person, and he just could not figure out how to make a sale on the computer.   One day a lady called and talked to Dad and told him she wanted to sell everything.  He jotted down a note on paper to remind himself instead of using the notes section on the new computer system, he made the transaction, and later she calls back and says she didn’t want to sell everything, but too late.  If he had put it in the notes instead of on paper, he would have had proof that she requested that transaction, but instead, it ended up costing him big time as he had to buy everything back.  Then on another occasion, a lady comes in, and later that afternoon he had no recollection of her being there.  People would call and he wouldn’t return their calls, he was entering things in wrongly to the computer system, and that’s just not good.  My Mom never sold anything for him, but if he ever needed to know how to do so, they’d call headquarters together to walk through the steps.  There’s that teamwork I mentioned.

My Dad in his office

 

Then came the day it was time to renew his broker’s license, his Series 7.  The day of the test he asked my mom to drive him, which she found odd, but she attributed it to nerves.  After taking the test you know immediately if you passed or not… and he didn’t.  He returned to the car where my mom was waiting for him, upset and disheartened.  Not passing this test meant no license.  He returned to work, having to tell the boss he didn’t pass, and as if that weren’t embarrassing enough, let’s throw in a little belittling to the mix from said boss.  Building each other up and encouraging one another must not have been their motto there at the office.  So… more stress. 

He studied and studied for that second taking of the test.  My Mom got online to see how the test was set up and she got it figured out.  She tried telling my Dad the strategies he needed for passing, but when you have short term memory issues, it’s hard to remember those strategies and re-learn how to actually take a test.  By the grace of God, and I’m sure many prayers, he passed!  What a relief for him, but studying for the test, the worry of failing again, and not being able to do his job any longer was stressful.  Do you see where I’m going here?

Then comes the spring of 2013.  Mom is still working with Dad, but things aren’t good.  She was pretty sure that on the days she wasn’t there, he didn’t do much work or made any sales.  He was struggling.  His boss was all over his case, going as far as to instruct her assistant NOT to help him, mad that my Mom was helping him so much.  Warning him, writing him up, threatening to fire him.  STRESS.  She obviously knew things were going on, that he was having issues, and yet instead of showing concern or even love, it was hate.  Where was the grace shown to him after he showed so much to her years prior?

And then came the breaking point.

One day Jim Skinner, a client turned best friend, called and Dad couldn’t help him on something easy.  Mom was doing more than she should have been doing, and so after feeling like he was being forced out anyways, they decided it was time to retire.  One Friday night in March of 2013, they stayed late, packed everything up, and wrote up their resignation letters.  They returned Monday, as a courtesy,  to turn in their letters, and to say people were shocked would be an understatement.  I’m not quite sure why though, as it seemed like they were getting exactly what they wanted.

And so after years of hard work, dedication, time, and energy put into making that company a success, he was rewarded with no retirement party, no open house, and no opportunity to say goodbye to clients.  Pretty much, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.  Sad.

He loved his clients.

It was hard for him leaving a job he loved doing, no matter how stressful it was at times.  He was always wanting to go back, and wasn’t happy being home.  He just had a drive about him.  And I don’t want you to be lead to believe that everyone up there was against my Dad, that wasn’t the case.  He did have a few great co-workers over the years that he loved and one in particular who took it super hard when he left.

But, would you be surprised to learn that even on my Dad’s worst days, he was still doing more work than others?  The proof… the office closed a year later.

So, yes, I blame work and stress on bringing on his symptoms.  I’m bitter, like I said.  Does stress play a role in Alzheimer’s disease?  Is having a job working with numbers all day harder on your brain than not?  Who knows?  But in my opinion, it’s definitely a factor.  It seemed like after he retired things started declining more quickly as he wasn’t forced to work his brain as hard.  He worked hard for so many years and for him to not get an opportunity to enjoy his golden years with my Mom kills me.  He deserved a break.  He deserved that time to enjoy being free, that time to travel, garden, go to grandkids ball games, do the things he loved doing.  He was robbed.

Thank you God for blessing me with a Dad with a strong work ethic.  A dad that showed love and grace to others when little to none at times was shown to him.  Thank you for the blessing he was to others and for the friendships and relationships he formed doing a job he loved.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” Colossians 3:23

 

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A Tribute to My Dad, the Friend

Dad

 

My Dad never met a stranger.

He greeted everyone with a smile and a handshake and was always quick to introduce himself.

He loved people…

Church people, Softball people, Rotary people, Young people, Old people, Clients and Work people.  I feel like a Dr. Seuss book.

My Dad grew up going to church with the Chumbley family.  Oh, the stories they could surely tell!   We got to hear a few of them at my Dad’s celebration of life service and then we spent most of that weekend reminiscing on the fun times they shared.

Mark Chumbley had this to share with me…

My two prominent memories with Geren. 

     Dwight had a couple shetlands at the farm while they were living there. I would go home with Geren on Sundays after church and stay the afternoon. One Sunday, Dwight and the rest of the family had gone visiting. We weren’t allowed to ride the ponies if Dwight wasn’t home. Geren decided to get out one of the ponies to ride. He saddled it up and took off in the pasture. The pony headed straight for the barbed wire fence to brush Geren off. Geren “bailed” out and ripped a hole in his pants from the fence. Just as we were leading the shetland back into the barn, Dwight came up the drive. Geren was confined to his room the rest of the afternoon. 

     On Sunday nights after church several families would meet up at A&W. Dwight had just bought a new station wagon and said my sister and me could ride to A&W with them. Dwight ordered us all a nickel, frosted mug of root beer. As Dwight was passing the first mug from the window tray to the back seat, he told us we’d better not spill any in his new car. As Geren grabbed that first mug, it slipped through his hand and spilled out down Dwight’s back and the front seat. Geren had no root beer that night and for a long time thereafter!

I actually heard that story about the root beer from Mark on the last day I got to spend with my Dad.  He came up to the Nursing Home to see him, told him he wanted to take him for a ride and go get some air.  My Dad never responded, but I know he knew Mark was there.  The love of a friend.

And then there’s Kenny.

Talk about the love of a friend.  Kenny was a friend to my Dad until the very end.  He, too,  came up to see my Dad at the Nursing Home that last day, but that was not the first time he had come to visit.  He visited my Dad a lot.  From his time at Amber Glen to his stay in the hospital, to his final days at the Nursing Home.  And he never came empty-handed.  He almost always had a milkshake for him, which of course my Dad would slurp right down!

Before my Dad went into assisted living, Kenny wasn’t just a good friend to my Dad, but also to my Mom.  He would come and pick Dad up and spend a couple hours with him to give my mom a little reprieve.  That’s a forever friend.  From growing up together in the church, to raising their children together, who would then also become forever friends, they did it all.  I think the only regret would be, they weren’t given enough time.

Time.

It’s a funny thing.  Our time on Earth is but a blink of an eye, and how thankful I am that God blessed my Dad with great, forever friends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

I end this post with a tribute to my Dad, from one of his best friends…

I knew Geren nearly all his life, and towering above the fun times, laughter, hijinks, and adventures we shared was Geren’s goodness. This is what I most remember about him. There are those who are good in the worst sense of the word, and there are those who are good in the best sense of the word, and Geren was in this latter category. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body. He was kind to all. Even when roused to anger—which was rare—he never lost control; he didn’t curse, swear, or say insulting things about the object of his ire. 

 But it’s not enough to merely live a life free from vice; love demands a life that blesses others. On more than one occasion, I brought to Geren’s attention someone with some need, and without exception, he always did what he could to help. That’s mercy; the kind of mercy meant when God said, “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.”

One of the clear indicators of the Alzheimer’s advance was the atypical behavior Geren displayed with increasing frequency last fall. About a week before he went into assisted living, I picked him up to take him for a ride. We were heading toward Champaign, when he suddenly reached over, put his hand on top of mine, and said, “I love you.” I thought then, and I think now, that he said it because he knew the time was short for him to speak his heart. Nothing he could have said better summarized the mutual love we shared as friends for sixty years.

Said Carlyle, “Man passes from Eternity, is encompassed by eternity, and again in Eternity disappears. It is fearful and wonderful. This only we know that God is above it, that God made it, and that God rules it for good.”

And to this I say, Amen.

Kenny Chumbley

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My Dad, the Big Brother

“Like branches on a tree we grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one. Each of our lives will always be a special part of the other.”     -Anonymous

My Dad. The eldest of five siblings.

Oh, the fun this group must have had growing up together!

As I continue to share Dad’s story, I wanted to share a few memories from his sisters as they remember him from their youth, so you can continue to get to know my Dad.

This is my Dad… the brother.

My Dad with his brother and sisters at a Rolla Thanksgiving

 

Steve, Susan, Linda, & Dad posing with a rocking horse from their childhood

 

Here are a few thoughts from my Aunt Linda about her memories growing up with my Dad:

My Dad and Linda

 

“For me, growing up with Geren involved a lot of time playing sports.  He loved football, basketball and baseball.  Since Susan was more interested in playing inside than out and since I was smaller than Geren, the only way to create a little competition for him was for me to team up with Steve.  Steve and I spent hours and hours playing against Geren.  We played basketball on the crib driveway, football in the front yard, and baseball in the pasture by the barn. We would often play until it was too dark to see the ball.”
My Dad playing basketball with Linda and Steve

 

“During the summer, we also spent a lot of time walking beans and working in the hay field to make a little spending money.”
Dad walking beans with his siblings

 

“Each summer we would take a family vacation.  One of our family vacation traditions was for each kid to pay for one meal and one night in a motel.  Geren’s meal had to be one in a sit down restaurant.  No cheap, fast food for him and he always insisted on the best motel available.  And, of course, it had to have a pool. 
I also remember the pony rides and hay forts.”
Dad standing in front of the restaurant he bought dinner for everyone on a family vacation

 

Why does it not surprise me at all to hear that my Dad had to have the best of the best?  And learning that work ethic early on, something he made sure to pass on to me and my brother and sister.  But Mr. Competitive?  Nooooooo…. {insert eye roll}

My Dad loved my Aunt Linda.

And speaking of Aunt Linda’s power partner, Uncle Steve, check these two out…

Uncle Steve and Dad

That hair… my goodness.

I’m sure my Uncle Steve would have had lots of memories to share of my Dad as well, but sadly he lost his battle to cancer in 2014.  That was something my Dad took really hard.  I can remember at Uncle Steve’s celebration of life service, us all being worried about my Dad getting up to share a scripture, but God’s hands were on him, and he got through it alright.  One memory my Dad would always share of my Uncle, was from a time they were going on the Sheriff Sid Show, which was actually taped at the station I work for now, and they had all practiced and practiced saying their names and where they were from.  When it was Uncle Steve’s turn at the mic, instead of saying my name is Steven Roberts from Gifford, Illinois, he instead said he was Stevie Illinois.  He would never live that down.

And then there’s my Aunt Susan…

Dad & Susan

 

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that he had an extra soft spot for my Aunt Susan.

And look at her… how could you NOT have a sweet spot for this lady?

The life of the party, always a smile on her face, would do anything for anyone if asked, and can organize a mean garage sale!

That is only a small sampling of the reasons why she is so loved by everyone that meets her.

But my goodness, how she loved my Dad.

I can remember a time when my aunt was going through a difficult time in her life and my dad dropped everything to drive to Florida to be with her.

He had her back.

The last time my Aunt would see my Dad before being placed in a memory care facility.

 

Besides my Mom, Aunt Susan was my rock during my Dad’s final months.

I could call her in tears over what was going on, and in typical “glass half full” Aunt Susan fashion, she could always make me feel better.

She’s the queen of finding joy in all circumstances and turning lemons into lemonade.

And so, just like years prior when my dad dropped everything to be with her in her time of need, she was there for him….and me.

She had our backs.

Here are some of her favorite memories of my Dad.  She could probably write a book of fun times they shared, but these are a few of her more memorable moments spent growing up with Dad.

“When you asked me to send you a few short stories about growing up with your sweet dad, the very first memory that popped into my head was on a hot summer day when I was very young.  I can’t tell you how old I was, but the memory has stayed with me like it happened yesterday.  Mom took us swimming at the Rantoul City Pool.  I jumped into the deep end of the pool and quickly went under.  I kept bobbing to the top of the water only to go back under again.  I truly felt like I was going to drown.  Just when I thought I was done for, an arm went around me and swam with me to the side of the pool.  It wasn’t the life guard that saved me, it was my big brother, my hero!

Every summer dad helped the boys plant a big vegetable garden for their 4-H project.  A row of sunflowers were planted at the end of the garden. The sunflowers grew tall and their stems looked more like a small tree than a fragile flower stem.  Geren decided the sunflower stem was strong enough to hold his weight so like “Jack and the Bean Stalk” he began to climb the sunflower.  He barely got his feet off the ground and his legs wrapped around the stem when it snapped and broke sending him to the ground!  We all had a good laugh at his expense.  

Dad at his high school graduation with his brother and sisters

 

We moved from Ludlow when I was five years old so Geren couldn’t have been over seven; we loved to “play church” on the stairs leading up to our bedrooms.  Geren would stand at the bottom of the stairs and lead singing, sometimes preach, and pass around the saltines for communion.  That love for God followed him all the years of his life.  When it was time to leave for worship, mom and dad would tell us to “Load Up”.  It was nothing to see Geren run to the car with a wet head and one time even wet jeans.  Yes, wet jeans!  I remember one winter day he grabbed a pair of jeans out of the dryer, put them on and ran to the car; there was steam coming off his jeans!  He didn’t want to miss worship!

In the winter we loved playing out in the snow.  Geren never did anything small.  I can remember him making snow tunnels across the front yard.  He would dig and dig and we would all crawl through them!  He knew how to make a cold winter day fun!

When we were little we loved “helping” dad with the harvest.  When he combined the beans we would all climb into the wagon and stand under the shoot like it was a shower head and let the beans fall on us.  As the beans filled the wagon, sometimes we would walk around on the top of the beans and other times we would let them practically bury us.  As the beans got closer to our chest we would push them to the side so they wouldn’t completely cover us up and suffocate us.  Sometimes, the beans would get so close to our face and tight around us that we couldn’t pull ourselves out.  That’s when we would cry out for help and Geren would grab our hands and arms and pull us from our bean prison. Sometimes, the beans would be so tight around us that when Geren pulled us to freedom our shoes would be left behind.  When dad took the load of beans to the elevator he would have to ask the man dumping the load to watch for our shoes.  All that work made us thirsty! From the Elevator, Dad would take us to the Ludlow Corner Café and buy us all a bottle of pop. 

I have so many memories, but here’s a high school memory.  I was barley 14 when I started high school and I couldn’t date until I was 15.  After much begging, mom said if I went on a double date, she would allow me to date before I turned 15.  Your dad was a Jr. in high school when I was a freshman.  Guess who I double dated with! Your dad would not only let me tag along on his dates, but he would also let Aunt Linda and her date join us.  How many big brothers would do that?!”

Dad and Susan at Thanksgiving

 

I could read stories like these from my dad’s youth all day. It was such a different time back then.  Can you even imagine showering in a wagon of beans today? My Dad, the cannonball king, coming to her rescue at the pool.  That was Dad, always looking out for others.  And I can totally see him trying to climb a sunflower… bless his heart.  Mr. Adventurous as well as Mr. Competitive.

There he is up there holding the larger piece of the wishbone.  I wonder what he wished for… I think by looking at the grin on his face, his wish had already come true.

And now, how do my Aunt Susan and Aunt Linda continue to go on with a smile on their faces after having to say goodbye to a little brother who lost his battle to cancer and to a dad and older brother who lost their fight against Alzheimer’s?

You can’t… without faith and trust in the One who made us.

Just like those branches on the tree growing in different directions, our roots remain as one when we are firmly planted in Christ.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Thank you God for putting me in a family that loves and fears You and trusts that You are always in control.

Thank you God for the hope that we will all be together again someday in heaven where we will play a mean game of Mexican Train, share lots of belly laughs, always get the big part of the wish bone, and no longer have to fear disease of any kind.

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Three Generations of Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Dad, Susan, Linda, Dutch

 

Look at that face.

I wish I knew what my Dad was thinking in this picture.

Maybe he was thinking, “Mom, take the picture already!  Can’t you see I’m ready to get back to playing?!?!”  Or maybe he was thinking, “Why are my sisters running around outside in their skivvies???”  Ha!

Who knows what my dad was thinking, but after you get past the fact that my aunts are running around  in their big girl panties outside, I look at my Aunt Susan.  Look at her face.  Who is she looking up to?  My Dad.  I love that.

And then look at my Great Granddad’s face. Grinning from ear to ear.  I imagine him thinking his cup is overflowing being blessed with beautiful grand babies.  But I don’t know.

But what I do know about my Great Granddad, Dutch, is that he, too, suffered from Alzheimer’s.  When he was in his late 70’s he began not recognizing himself in the mirror.  His mind was so confused, he was hitting the mirror, thinking a stranger was in his home.  Turns out he  was the stranger in his own body.  Can you even imagine looking in a mirror and not recognizing your own face?  Somedays I wake up and look in the mirror and think, “Oh Mylanta!” but thankfully I never think, “Who the heck is that looking at me?!”  I pray that day never comes.

My Great Granddad also began wandering around town, not knowing how to get home, just like my Dad did.  Thankfully things in Gifford haven’t changed much over the years, because just how people would pick my Dad up and take him home, the towns people did the same thing for my Great Granddad.  You’ve gotta love small town values and that sense of community where everyone knows everyone.  It’s not always a bad thing! His family eventually had to put him into the nursing home in town to keep him safe, and he ended up passing away when he was eighty years old.

 

Dad with his dad, Dwight

 

Celebrating High School graduation on the farm with Granny & Granddad

 

And then there’s my Granddad, Dwight.

If you had a minute, he had a story.

And boy, could he tell a story.  He had tons of them.  Stories from his time farming, stories from the gas station he owned and operated, stories from his time in the Navy, and on and on and on.

So, when he began forgetting stories and having my Granny finish them for him, we knew something wasn’t right.  You’d ask my Granny about it, and I’m not sure if she was in denial or didn’t want us worrying, but when family members would bring up their concerns about Granddad, she would always say, “No, he’s fine!”  But he wasn’t fine.  Eventually he had to quit coming back to help with harvest, something he loved doing every year,  because he couldn’t navigate on his own from Kansas to Illinois.  He quit telling stories.  He got quiet.

But something he didn’t forget…hymns.

Dustin, Dad, Granny, Ashley, Me, Stacy, Reid, Jillian, Granddad, Brock

 

In 2012 the Roberts family got together in Branson to celebrate my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary where I hosted The Roberts Diamond Jubilee.  It was so fun!  Their anniversary coincided with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrating her 60 year reign, so we played off of that for their party.  (You can see details from that party HERE). The weekend started off with my Dad getting lost on his way to my house as we would be riding together from Illinois to Branson.  My mom was recovering from battling blood clots in her lungs, so she wouldn’t be able to make the trip.  He called me on his cell phone, lost, not sure how to get to my house, and so I had to drive to the Casey’s Gas Station to meet him so he could follow me home.  I live in a pretty small town, one stop light, and it was dark, so I’ll give him that, but that was definitely a red flag.  Then on our way down to Branson the next day he seriously rode me the whole way on my driving.  I was either driving too fast or following too close.  He was convinced I was going to get pulled over.  He had started to develop a cop-phobia.  I had to threaten him that I was going to tape his mouth shut!  He didn’t appreciate that, but it was just so annoying!  He was okay once we got there, but back to Granddad and his hymns.

In a previous post I mentioned how important our faith is to our family.  Something I truly LOVE about my Roberts family is that when we’re all together on a Sunday, we worship as a family.  Where one or more are gathered, right?  Well, we had services in the cabin that Sunday morning.  My cousin Andy lead singing and my Uncle Steve lead us in worship.  Sure enough, my Granddad who had been wandering around all weekend like a lost puppy, not sharing story after story, could sing the hymns.  He could no longer lead us in prayer, or deliver the devotional, but he could sure sing.  He loved singing and was always known for leading singing at church.  I honestly believe this disease is the Devil’s handiwork, and what a blessing to know that he couldn’t steal that gift from my Granddad.

That would be the last time I’d see my Granddad.  His health began to decline quickly.  He was beginning to be too much for my Granny to handle on her own.

*TIP #1*

Get your power of attorney established NOW if you have a loved one you may even THINK is having issues.

My Granny would take Granddad to a facility that offered respite care so she could have a break.  When she went to pick him up, as if it wasn’t bad enough him not wanting to come home with her, one time they weren’t going to let her take him home because she wasn’t his POA.  Are you kidding me?!  She had to fight to get him out of there.  It was close to being a knock down drag out.  By then, getting a POA established is difficult considering your loved one can’t even sign their own name any longer.

So, no more respite care for them.  My parents, Aunt Linda, Aunt Jennifer, Aunt Susan, and Uncle Steve all took turns spending time with them in Kansas, helping take care of Granddad.  I remember my heart breaking thinking about my Dad having to leave his parents to get back to work, having to say goodbye to his dad for possibly the last time.  How do you say goodbye to someone you’ve loved your entire life, knowing it’s the last time you’ll most likely see them alive?   The last time you’ll feel the warmth of their body, the touch of their hand, hearing their last “I love you.”  How do you even find the strength to walk out that front door, hop in your car, and drive away?  As they were leaving, although he’d made barely any sense while they were there, he did manage to tell my Dad to take good care of my Mom.  Always thinking of others.  An amazing example of a godly man.  If he only knew it would ultimately end up being the other way around, my Mom needing to take care of my Dad.

We said our final goodbyes to my Granddad in November of 2012.  He was 81 when he died.  It was a beautiful service. At the cemetery there was someone there to play Taps and if you’ve never experienced that, let’s just say… chills.

Dustin, Reid, Dad, Granddad, Brock

 

And so now here in 2012, we have my Great Granddad gone from Alzheimer’s, my Granddad gone from Alzheimer’s, and my Dad showing signs.

All first born males.

And so your mind begins to wander…. is this a male thing?  Is it a first born thing?  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

Does my brother need to be worried?  For himself?  For his son, Reid?

Do I need to be worried?  For myself or for my first born, Brock?

The answer to all of those questions I believe is YES.

But, what does God say about worrying?

He says DON’T.

So, although I wonder, I’m not going to worry.  God is always in control.  But you know what I CAN control?  My choices.  My choices for myself.  The choices for my son.

My brother is on his own, but you better believe I give him my two cents, whether he wants it or not.

If I’ve learned anything about this disease, although it may be in my cards, I’m not going to fuel it.

My Granddads didn’t develop the disease until they were in their 70’s.  I believe lifestyle choices brought my Dad’s symptoms on early, which I’ll get into at a later time.

So, for now we’ll be thankful for the life my Granddads lead, the legacies that they left behind, and the promise that one day we’ll see them again.